Not Spencer: Wasilly Season

Not Spencer took an unscheduled day off yesterday due to the Phillies World Series win (it tickles me to say that.   I’ll probably randomly sprinkle that in to conversation for the next 6 months.) It’s back today with a gift from a gifted writer and person whose blog, Church of the Big Sky, is a constant inspiration and goal to me.

Now that I’ve made Merujo blush, here’s her post.


“She is a diva. She takes no advice from anyone. She does not have any relationships of trust with any of us, her family or anyone else.” – anonymous McCain advisor commenting on Sarah Palin to

I started writing this piece for Spencer probably a dozen times, and each effort up until now has ended up in the recycling bin. A good friend of mine likes to remind me that I tend to lose my thread when I write or speak about politics. I get emotional, and rational logic tends to get the old heave-ho. This year, though, I can’t blame myself. Not this time. I can’t blame any of us for being emotional about the choice we need to make. In just a few days, we have the opportunity to change the ugly, damaging trajectory of this nation’s future.

We have the opportunity to bring America back to a position of sanity and decency and reason.

We’ve been hovering on the brink of hell for eight long, dark, miserable years. So, yeah, I think we can all get a little emotional. And I’m going to warn you here, I’m taking the gloves off.

For me, a vote in this election comes down to a judgment call. But it’s not my judgment I’m worried about. It’s not your judgment I’m worried about. And it’s not Barack Obama’s judgment I’m worried about. It’s John McCain’s judgment that worries me. It worries me a great deal. Especially as the polls tighten in these last days before we vote. I just don’t want to see someone come to power that will not only continue the lunacy of the Bush regime, but, quite possibly, expand it.

Instead, I want a president in the White House who demonstrates prudent behavior. A president who thinks about the nation as a whole, thinks about the nation as it fits into this rapidly shrinking world, and is willing to represent and lead and defend all of us – not just those who fit into a small, increasingly paranoid pigeonhole on the far right.

We need, plainly, a president with good judgment. Someone who will make important decisions with calmness and with the council of great minds in a bipartisan cabinet. Someone who can engage us, congress, our allies and our enemies with grace and without invoking fear or encouraging ignorance.

We don’t need a man in the Oval Office who makes snap decisions under the guise of being a “maverick.” Not one that sings “bomb, bomb, bomb, bomb, bomb Iran” and lets himself be filmed doing it. Not one known in DC circles to have an anger management problem. Not one who uses a gimmick candidate like Sarah Palin to try to lure in the rightest of the right wing.

That gimmick has failed. When prominent members of the Republican Party publicly endorse the Democratic candidate for president, citing Sarah Palin as a key reason for their defection, you know you have a problem.

I believe John McCain’s choice of Sarah Palin was the death knell for his campaign – and deservedly so. It was a decision either tremendously ill-conceived and poorly researched or simply a demonstration of utter contempt for the American people, an underestimation of the intelligence of our electorate, and an overestimation of the perceived desire of American women to see a female candidate on the ticket.

As an American woman, I actually find it offensive that the McCain campaign believed they could harness both the fundamentalist Christian vote and the post-Hillary female vote by identifying Palin as a running mate. Would it be great to see a woman in the White House? Sure it would. Absolutely. But only the right woman – someone with credible experience dealing with the weasel patrol in Washington, someone who is ready to hold her own with world leaders, and someone who can separate personal religious beliefs from leadership for a diverse nation. Even if I were a Republican, Sarah Palin would not represent me.

Contrary to what some elements of the Republican Party may believe, the United States is not exclusively a nation of evangelical Christians. Ours is a nation of many peoples, many faiths, and many lifestyles; I see Sarah Palin in the White House as a very bad thing for people who do not share her fundamentalist Christian religious mores. Let’s just say I don’t anticipate seeing any “Wiccans for McCain” bumper stickers any time soon.

Are there people who think Palin is an acceptable candidate for the vice presidency? Certainly there are. Shockingly, there are a lot of them. That scares the bejeezus out of me. Do I think the majority of her supporters – most of whom who had no idea who she was before August 29th this year – are using common sense in rallying to her side? Honestly, no. But in desperate times – when everyday people are being crushed by fuel prices, failed banks, foreclosed mortgages – desperate people will cleave tightly to those they *think* understand and represent them.

Problem is, these good people are being sold a bill of goods. What they don’t seem to know, despite the folksy “guys and gals/common woman” rhetoric, is that Sarah Palin isn’t just like them. Yeah, she’s a mom. Yeah, she’s a working woman, a hunter, a wife, a church-goin’ gal. (Many women are.) But unless your family’s personal wealth clocks in at the million dollar mark, my friends, you are not playing in Sarah Palin’s league. It’s all smoke and mirrors – Barnum and Bailey on an epic level. It’s all an illusion to draw in disenfranchised conservatives – the fearful, the undereducated, the insular, the poor and the paranoid, and yes, sometimes the xenophobic and the ignorant   – who are seeking someone to blame.

If you haven’t seen it yet, watch the video Spencer posted of the scary, name-calling crowds at a recent Palin rally. It’s distressing to watch the crowd – belligerent, uninformed – one racist even holding a stuffed monkey labeled with Obama’s name. The mood changes from “party faithful” to “mob” pretty quickly in difficult times. They grasp at catchphrases like “Country First” and believe that the Republicans will keep them safe and restore their measure of prosperity. They hear Palin raise them up as being pro-America Americans and use words like patriotism and socialism without really knowing what they mean. And they do it all without recognizing it’s the party she represents – the twisted smoking wreckage of the GOP – that has laid waste to this country for eight years and is largely responsible for their current predicament.

Does Sarah Palin represent you? Try taking my easy 10-Question Palin Judgment Compatibility Quiz:

1.      Have you ever tried to coerce a librarian into identifying books that should be banned?
2.      Do you believe that God ordains the building of oil pipelines?
3.      Do you think it’s a good idea to get on a plane and fly 3000 miles after your water breaks in the 7th month of a high-risk pregnancy?
4.      Do you think traumatized rape victims should have to pay for their own forensic rape evidence kits?
5.      Do you have a knocked-up teenage daughter and still think abstinence-only sex education is the right way to go?
6.      Have you ever been videotaped being blessed against all forms of witchcraft and enemies bearing serpents?
7.      Have you ever faced an enemy bearing a serpent?
8.      Do you think the United States constitution should be amended just to serve the gay marriage paranoia of the Christian right?
9.      Do you read newspapers? Any newspaper? Buehler? Buehler?
10.      If you can see another country from your living room, does that make you an expert on it?

Oh – and on that last point – you think you know all about Russia, Governor Palin, because you can see the country from your living room? Hey, guess what? I was educated as a Soviet scholar, lived in both the Soviet Union and post-Soviet Russia, and, when I worked for the American Embassy, I could – literally – see the Russian White House across the street from my living room. And, despite spending a decade and a half of my life studying, living in, and working in Russia, I still don’t know the country half as well as I’d like. And yet, if I am judged against the Sarah Palin international leadership sniff test, I think I’m qualified to be John McCain’s secretary of state!

Look, I don’t doubt that Sarah Palin is ambitious and politically savvy in her own small pond. The size of the cojones on that Estee Lauder’ed Alaskan pit bull is not in question. And I don’t doubt she knows how to handle herself in front of the cameras. (Hey, if I had a hard-fought, six-year, five-college bachelors degree in sports journalism and the career goal to appear on SportsCenter, I’d know which camera to address, too.)

But putting on a good face for a crowd isn’t enough. The person one heartbeat, one cancer diagnosis, one breath away from the presidency of the United States should be much smarter than the average bear. And I don’t think Sarah Palin is that. Joe Biden has his own warts and problems, too, but he’s not delusional.

A few years ago – heck, a few months ago – I thought better of John McCain. But the Palin choice has made me think he’s eaten some bad mushrooms and taken a ride on the crazy train. Whatever the reason for his horribly poor vice presidential decision, I sure as hell don’t want him representing me or my country.

Please, don’t let John McCain’s poor judgment further derail this nation’s future.

Choose wisely. Choose hope. Choose reason. Choose smart.

Choose Barack Obama.


Please return tomorrow for the final Not Spencer post.  

Not Spencer: My Evolution on Presidential Politics

Today’s Not Spencer submission is from fellow blogger Howard Hall.   Unlike his regular blog,, today he gets to speak in more than a Haiku.


There was a time when I supported John McCain. I even voted for him in the Republican primary. But that was eight years ago. Both John McCain and I have changed quite a bit in the interim. Or maybe we both just discovered who we really are.

As for me, I’ve long since changed my voter affiliation to independent, even though most of my core ideas have remained the same. I guess I just realized how poorly the Republican reality matched my ideas.

For years I took for granted the rightwing assertions of rampant tax-and-spend liberals. But then I started to wonder why conservative heroes like Ronald Reagan and, more recently, George W. Bush were such prolific contributors to the national debt — while a Democrat named Bill Clinton has been the only president in my lifetime to balance a federal budget. So when Barack Obama suggests returning to Clinton-style fiscal policy, I see a higher likelihood of competence and fiscal responsibility in him than I do in his opponent, who pledges to emulate the policies of the current administration.

Coming from a working class family, I have always paid attention to issues that affect working class people. And these are issues that Obama seems to care more about than McCain. Several analyses have concluded that working people will see greater tax relief from an Obama administration. This doesn’t even take into account McCain’s resurrection of a Bush initiative to treat employer-based health care as taxable income, which strangely, sounds like a tax increase.

And on the topic of health care, I also happen to agree with a Wall Street Journal opinion piece calling Obama’s proposal better than what McCain has to offer.

While my choice for this election is broadly based on issues, I believe that one much-maligned item on Barack Obama’s resumé also plays a role: his experience as a community organizer.

When Sarah Palin joked in her acceptance speech about community organizing, and went on to say the world “doesn’t just need an organizer,” it was clear to me she had no concept of what she was criticizing. For generations, community organizers of all stripes have been the best, if not only, way to kickstart meaningful reform and educate regular people about their rights and responsibilities. After eight years of a President who told us to go shopping while he immersed us deeper into war, there are few qualities we need more in a leader than those possessed and practiced by a community organizer. And judging from a campaign that’s registered unprecedented numbers of new voters, it’s clear Barack Obama still knows a thing or two about community organizing.

Which brings me to one last idea my conservative parents have ingrained in me: real change has to come from the people. This year I’m choosing a candidate who not only talks about grassroots change, but also knows how to cultivate it.

Howard Hall

Not Spencer: Making A Case To Moderates: Embrace Your Intellect; Support Obama-Biden

In light of tomorrow’s debate, frequent commenter RadioCynic: a radio announcer, musician, blogger, Michael Penn and Aimee Mann fan is chiming in with his electoral thoughts.


Big thanks to Spencer for this opportunity, as I never have the time to blog regularly, yet remain incapable of shutting up.

I’d like to speak to moderates and undecideds.   My qualification to do so might be that I spent much of my life considering myself a left-leaning moderate – always a “trying to see both sides”, mediating, conflict-avoidant type.   Although – no big surprise – the intolerant, unreasonable or embarrassing qualities of many conservatives have gradually pushed me far further into liberalism.

In choosing a political candidate, there are two overriding, almost equally important factors – a candidate’s stand on actual issues, and the voter’s visceral reaction to the candidate’s persona.

Please, do research the issues.   Politically-neutral websites like – a little flawed, but one of the easiest – are great for cutting through spin and seeing actual stands, along with showing voting records on specific issues important to you.   One can also find out if a candidate has mixed feelings or a mixed record on certain issues, which for many moderates is the “right” answer!   (Further bearing out my moderate credentials, the quiz has shown me 62% in agreement with some guy named John McCain … while 95% with Barack Obama.)   See how you compare.

But even more overwhelming in this election is our need to restore intelligence and reasoned thought to our executive branch, and through that, begin to repair the damages to the world’s perception of the US.   While I still give President Bush the benefit of the doubt that he couldn’t possibly be as dumb as he seems, I’m still no less flabbergasted that our country could have possibly (well, barely) elected him twice.   My only reservation about Senator Obama, which was his relative lack of experience, is outweighed by his consistent personification of just the intelligence and reasoned thought that we need to restore respect to the leadership of our country.

I first started realizing my drift to the left during the Reagan era.   (Yeah, I’m old…   Just consider it “wisdom” or something and go with it.)   Despite his “great communicator” moniker, I always found him just plain hokey, fake and condescendingly folksy…   Not necessarily dumb, but a bit of an empty vessel, one of the first to “communicate” mainly through cutesy sound bites.   Hmmm, yes… folksy… and in touch with “Joe Six-Pack”, perhaps.   The predecessor to similar “qualities” in Senator McCain and Governor Palin.   They might take that as a complement, but it’s not really meant that way.   (I’ll avoid talking in detail about Sarah Palin, lest I have no chance of maintaining the approximate 1000 words that Spencer asked for.     Darn right that we’re bein’ very blessed to be not goin’ there, since, y’know, it’d be a heckuva discussion, you betcha.   Aaargh.)

But just really quickly… as a public service to help us prevent repeating mistakes of the past, I may have developed a three-part litmus test to instantly and easily identify a dumb politician.       And though research is ongoing, I suspect it may just work for instantly recognizing dumb people in general:

1.      Consistently uses the pronunciations “Eye-raq” and “Eye-ran”.
2.      Consistently and somewhat jingoistically uses the term “America” in place of “United States of America” (ignoring the other 24 countries in North/Central/South America to infer that we’re the only one that counts.)
3.      One word, which could likely encompass the whole test in and of itself – “nucular”.

When, by the way, did intelligence and “elitism” become such a bad thing?   (I’m conveniently ignoring the classism portion of the definition here — I myself don’t necessarily have the education, or certainly the economic wherewithal to qualify.)   But shouldn’t we all be striving to be “elite”, at least when it comes to intelligence and good taste, rather than purposefully dumbing everything down?   I don’t want my president to be “Joe-six-pack-hockey-mom-bowler” that I want to have a freakin’ beer with.   (You know what, I don’t even drink beer, okay?   Maybe I might want a candidate I can drink a good vodka, a great cup of strong coffee or even a fine elitist red wine with.   So sue me.)   Bottom line, no matter what, I want a president who is WAY smarter than me.

But nothing has gone further to ensure my liberal lean than the closed-minded, entitled, mean-spirited and oft-bigoted writings and quotations of some of the scions of the far right, like Rush Limbaugh, Ann Coulter and Rick Santorum.

So it was good ol’ Mr. Santorum that removed my last shred of doubt that I’d be supporting Senator Obama.   This past August, Mr. Santorum wrote an Op-Ed piece for the Philadelphia Inquirer, lambasting Senator Obama’s “untethered values”.   What he managed to do throughout his entire haughty, holier-than-thou, far-right article, was point out to me that Senator Obama’s values are so very close to my own.

“…in a 2004 interview … Chicago Sun-Times’ religion reporter Cathleen Falsani … asked the candidate, ‘What is sin?’   Obama’s response: ‘Being out of alignment with my values.’   ‘My values’!   I know many supporters see him as some kind of messiah, but what about God’s values?…”

Seems Mr. Santorum never considered the abstract concept that a religious person’s own values might be based on striving to match their concept of what God’s values might be, which by the way, most reasonable humans wouldn’t presume to know with certainty.

“… Another insight into Obama came when … asked about marriage.   ‘I believe that marriage is the union between a man and a woman,’ he said.   ‘As a Christian, for me as a Christian, it’s also a sacred union.’   Sounds good, but wait. Obama opposes a federal constitutional amendment to define marriage as between a man and a woman.   He opposes similar attempts at the state level.   He has pledged to support judges that would redefine marriage from the bench.   Obama recently wrote a homosexual-rights group that ‘equality in relationship, family, and adoption rights is not some abstract principle …That’s why we have to repeal laws like the Defense of Marriage Act.   That’s why we have to extend equal treatment in our family and adoption laws.’ … “

Yep, that one sounds good to me, too.   Gay people’s marriages have never diminished my own heterosexual marriage one bit, and it can be left to religious institutions to decide if they want to religiously “sanctify” them or not.

And the kicker was about abortion – admittedly such a sensitive topic to so many people.   I personally strongly support a woman’s right to choose (as does Senator Obama,) but I truly respect the opposing viewpoint, and most importantly, I hold a concept that Senator Obama summed up perfectly for me (again presented with disdain by Mr. Santorum.) —

” … Obama was asked at what point a baby gains human rights.   His answer: ‘That question with specificity, you know, is above my pay grade.’   The most debated moral issue of our time, and he feigns doubt before an audience of evangelical Christians …”

Welp, yeah.   But not “feigning” doubt.   It’s admitting honest doubt on a moral question that NO ONE on either side of this issue truly knows the answer to.   Straightforward honesty.   Because it IS above all of our pay grade, and wow, what a great answer.

Such intelligence, wit and honesty, and indeed even a willingness to admit when one does not have an answer, certainly appeals to my moderate “seeing both sides” tendencies.

So join us, fellow moderates (or um, y’know, liberals who used to be moderates.)   Get the facts, embrace your intellect, and support Senator Obama.   It’s never been more important.

— “radiocynic” is a Philadelphia radio announcer and musician, residing in an annoyingly reddish section of the very blue state of New Jersey. —

The “Not Spencer” series will continue tomorrow with a post from the other Howard of fame.

Open letter to John McCain supporters

After the past few weeks, of watching the debates, the politicization of the bailout by John McCain, and the renewed attacks from the McCain mob having to do with Bill Ayers, I wonder how McCain supporters can not be disappointed in their candidate. To be more blunt, John McCain is as slimy a character as you will run across in politics right now.   I know that if he was the presumptive leader of my party, I would be beyond disappointed all the way to disgusted.   The lack of character shown by McCain, Palin and his gang of Rove wannabes, is mind-numbing. Repeated lies, race baiting, it’s all just distasteful.

He wants to call himself a maverick – Palin mentioned that word at least a dozen times in her debate with Joe Biden last week;   you’d think a maverick would be talking about the economy these days, but not today – today we heard “who is the real Obama” – if I were considering McCain I would want to know – your real plan to rescue the economy;   your real plan to save my home from foreclosure; your real plan to rebuild health care; your real plan to make college more affordable.   Some of the comments heard at is rallies would be more appropriate for a KKK gathering, not that of a political candidate in the year 2008.

Instead we hear more of the same politics from the Republicans, and all I have to ask is this: how can any self-respecting, intelligent person even consider voting for John McCain once you compare them on the issues and then have to take a look at his behavior the past month?

John McCain is just plain slimy.

Tweets from the Biden/Palin Debate

  • The Phillies are making it easy to catch the entire VP Debate tonight. Thought I was going to have to have 2 TVs going. #
  • @eyedesignstudio Thank goodness Palinbingo doesn’t say middle class – cause we know a Republican won’t say that. #
  • Hmm – maybe it wouldn’t be such a bad idea for Palin to sneak Tina Fey in as her replacement #
  • Printing our Palingbingo cards: #
  • @VizionQuest The book hasn’t been released and nothing about Obama has been written. Don’t assume just because the author is black #
  • OMG – Republicans talking about new energy and bringing something new. Really? Old man McCain has been around for 26 years. #
  • Nice one – great comeback on Biden’s part. #
  • Yes Palin reduced her towns budget from $10 to $8 a year. #
  • OMG – Barak want’s everyone to have health insurance. Awesome. $5000 for health insurance? #
  • Nice one. Bridge to Nowhere is a great description of the Republicans. #
  • “and it all starts with job creation” #
  • Great – because you’ve been hidden away from talking, she doesn’t have any promises to break. #
  • Great, great answer about oil company profits the windfall profits tax. #
  • We also have John McCain to thank for the Blackberry. #
  • So she answers “No” and then moves on to another talking point. 90 minutes is too much for her portfolio of answers. #
  • “and it goes back to job creation” #
  • She doesn’t want to argue the causes of global warming but wants to lower emissions? Does that make sense? #
  • Drill baby Drill? Holy crap. WTF? #
  • Senator O’Biden? Top of the morning to ya! #
  • I do support capping carbon emissions – ummm, what are they? #
  • OMG, she’s got a black friend. #
  • @VizionQuest But nothing has been written – why do you assume it will be positive? #
  • Will she be able to tell the difference between Iran and Pakistan? #
  • I think Palin should get lower grade questions. “Governor Palin, Spell Pakistan” #
  • She’s not answering the damn questions. #
  • Mmm – that Israel has been a good lover to me. Oh, not that Israel. #
  • I figured out Palin’s answer structure: single word answer and then avoid the question by spouting a speaking point. #
  • OMG – did she say “There you go again”? #
  • Palin “word to your mother” #
  • @briandonahue She can’t even pronounce “you” #
  • What is she reading from? #
  • From the hugest of states – Alaska? #
  • Wow – Republicans saying they have a record of democracy and tolerance? #
  • This is so much better than the Prez debate. #
  • Sarah Palin’s favorite movie? Maverick. #
  • Sarah Palin’s favorite car? Her old Ford Maverick. #
  • Sarah Palin’s favorite character in Top Gun? You guessed it, Maverick. #
  • Is Palin going to shout out to her gays? #
  • @briandonahue He helped win the war in Vietnam – oh wait. #
  • @ophelia agreed – it was definitely the scariest part of the debate. Palin having the power that Cheney has had is scary. #
  • Somebody hand that woman a stunt baby. #
  • Shout out to the fightin’ Phils, beating the Brewers quickly so I could pay attention the debate. #
  • That’s it for me twittering the debate. Palin wasn’t horrible, but she had set the bar really low. Biden had the debate of his life. #
  • @scarls17 Hey, look at my favicon – it’s Obama, I make no bones who I support. But I support him for his positions and his judgment. #
  • @moodyboy c’mon – I posted that on Twitter an hour ago. Maverick duh! #
  • My first bumper stickers go Obama! #
  • My first bumper stickers. Go Obama! #

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Twittering the Vice Presidential Debate

I’ll be tweeting during the debate. Hopefully I’ll be somewhat witty. If you care to join in – just point your browser here:

Spencer’s Twitter Page

I can’t believe how much I’m looking forward to a VP debate. While I’m hoping that Palin falls flat on her lipstic, I think that it will be a lot closer than I want. She knows how to handle herself in a debate – the stakes here are bigger, but she’ll be looking for mistakes, and Biden is prone to them. That said, she also has to be careful – I originally thought she’d just play attack dog, but after the past week, I don’t think that will play. People will want to hear her talk about the issues. I also think that with her past few interviews, she’s set the bar so low, that if she manages to string a couple of coherent sentences together without screwing up, the Republicans might claim victory.

One note: My Phillies are playing tomorrow at 6:07. If it’s played to the tempo of today’s game, it will be over by the time the debate, if not – I’ll be watching two things at once for a few minutes.